Ready to get down, ghosts and gals?
Though COVID-19 has put the kibosh on most of our normal Halloween festivities this year, there's no reason why we can't celebrate the spookiest day of the year in style from the comfort (and safety) of our own homes. But in order to help your old haunt really live up to its name, you're going to have to set the mood. That's where we come in.
Welcome to The MixtapE!: Halloween Edition!
While the music industry has historically favored the more holly, jolly holiday at year's end when it comes to making themed music, turning Christmas tunes into a cottage industry, there are more than a few artists who've embraced the dark side over the years. In honor of All Hallows' Eve, we've gathered our favorite frightful delights—a mix of specters, both old and new ghoul—guaranteed to make your graveyard the grooviest on the block.
Your soundtrack for Halloween 2020 has arrived. Stay safe!
Screamin' Jay Hawkins — "I Put a Spell on You"
Yes, Bette Midler's version of this song in Hocus Pocus is iconic. Nina Simone's from 1965 is the stuff of legend. But Hawkin's original recording from 1956 is the true superior. Recorded after producer Arnold Maxin got everyone in the studio drunk, this blues ballad is unnerving and hypnotizing in all the right ways.
Kim Petras feat. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark — "Turn Off the Light"
Since the release of Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1 in 2018, Petras has cornered the market on Halloween-themed music. (To be fair, she's about the only artist dedicating themselves to the dark side right now.) On this excellent electropop title track, she invites camp queen Elvira to do her best Vincent Prince-in-"Thriller" impression. It's spook-tacular.
Oingo Boingo — "Dead Man's Party"
Danny Elfman and his merry band of new wave weirdos singing about a party where no one's still alive. We're still waiting for our invitation to arrive.
Billie Eilish — "bury a friend"
On this single off her debut album When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Eilish sings from the perspective of a monster hiding under the bed. It's the sort of unsettling synth-pop that nightmares are made of.
Lady Gaga — "Bloody Mary"
This deep cut off Gaga's 2011 album Born This Way is actually about Mary Magdalene and not the famed (and feared) urban legend. But there's something about the trance-like melody and those plucking strings that haunt just the same.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds — "Red Right Hand"
Before Peaky Blinders co-opted this gothic track off the Australian rock band's 1994 album Let Love In, horror movie fans recognized it as the unofficial theme song to the Scream franchise, as it appeared in some capacity in each of the first three films. The second that sparse, industrial blues production kicks in, it's hard not to transport back to sleepy Woodsboro right as all hell is about to break loose.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs — "Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix)"
The way that A-Trak chopped up this 2009 hit from Karen O's indie rock band, turning it into a frenetic fight fest, is remarkable. When that beat drops, it's all treat, no trick.
She Wants Revenge — "Tear You Apart"
Just the sexiest goth rock track about an obsession so intense, it might make you tear someone to shreds. There's a reason Ryan Murphy used this as the needle drop for Lady Gaga's blood-soaked introduction in American Horror Story: Hotel.
Michael Jackson — "Thriller"
Our feelings about Jackson himself may be complicated, but there's no denying that this 1984 track is the pinnacle of spooky pop. An enduring classic for a reason, it's really not Halloween without it.